With all the buzz surrounding Caitlyn Jenner’s transgender transition bringing public awareness to this process, there continues to be less awareness of speech therapy and how it can support the overall transition process.
What can an SLP do for transgender clients?
A Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) can help to not only increase pitch, but also change rate of speech, intonation and inflection patterns, volume, tone and placement of voice, and feminize gestures and body language: an overall package that can aid transgender clients and help them feel more comfortable with their new selves.
How does the process of transgender voice therapy work?
An SLP will assess the client to get a better understanding of the goals they wish to achieve by coming to voice therapy. Have they started hormone replacement therapy or gender re-assignment surgeries? How much do they want to change their voice (modify it and make it more feminine or completely feminize it)? Hormone replacement and gender reassignment surgeries can all impact progress of voice therapy. Voice therapy with transgender individuals should definitely be conducted with a holistic viewpoint and approach. Client perception, outcomes, and long term goals are very important to the overall outcome of therapy.
What are the outcomes of transgender voice therapy?
The outcomes are completely client directed. Increasing client awareness of their voice, anatomy, how it can change, and how to safely produce their new voice is a main goal of therapy. Consistent attendance to therapy sessions is a necessity, especially in the beginning stages when establishing pitch, tone, and intonation patterns. The aim is to produce voice in a way that does not strain or put stress on the vocal mechanism. The degree of change and feminization varies based on vocal anatomy, client preference, and ability to use the “new voice” more than the “old voice.”
Speech/voice therapy is a great tool to add to the transgender process and an important step in the whole transition process.
Linda Saarenvirta has been practicing for 11 years as a registered Speech-Language Pathologist at S. L. Hunter SpeechWorks. For the past 5 years, Linda has focussed in the area of vocal rehabilitation including the use of videostroboscopy as well as the Visi-Pitch program. She enjoys working with all clientele and believes strongly in the client centered approach that S.L. Hunter SpeechWorks provides.